A Taste of Their Own Medicine


For years we’ve listened to the Right whine that President Obama won’t call terrorism by its name. Of course, sometimes he does (see: Mittens gets schooled), but the point is that righties seem to think there’s something magical about using the word terrorism that strengthens us and confounds our enemies. Except that only applies to Muslims, apparently.

But, somehow, they are less bold in other contexts. See Judd Legum, The Wildly Different Ways One Senator Responds To Terrorism: Boston Versus Charleston. The Senator in question is Miss Lindsey Graham.

In response to the Boston bombing of 2013, Senator Lindsey Graham demanded that the government do everything it could to learn from the attack and prevent future attacks.

This man, in my view, should be designated as a potential enemy combatant and we should be allowed to question him for intelligence gathering purposes to find out about future attacks and terrorist organizations that may exist that he has knowledge of, and that evidence cannot be used against him in trial. That evidence is used to protect us as a nation.

Many people took issue with Graham’s claim that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is a U.S. citizen, could be designated as an enemy combatant. But Graham’s conviction that the attack was part of a more systemic problem, based on Tsarnaev’s Muslim faith, was unmistakable. Tsarnaev’s attack killed three people and injured over 250.

Graham’s reaction to Wednesday’s attack on a black church in his home state of South Carolina was very different. (His niece, coincidentally, went to school with the shooter). Graham is adamant that the attack is not evidence of any larger problem.

Graham, who is on his way to Charleston, said his niece did not recall Roof making any statements that were related to race.

“I just think he was one of these whacked out kids. I don’t think it’s anything broader than that,” Graham said. “It’s about a young man who is obviously twisted.”

They were all young men who were obviously twisted; IMO the object of violent peoples’ twistedness often is the cart, not the horse. In any event, terrorism experts apparently saw no connection between the Tsarnaev brothers and any larger terrorist organization, but of course some on the American Right would love to waterboard every Muslim on the planet.

There’s no doubt Dylann Roof is one of these whacked out kids, but so was Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. We seem to have a lot of whacked out kids these days.

By the same token, if the Tsarnaev brothers were terrorists, then so is Dylann Roof. And so is Scott Roeder, who murdered Dr. George Tiller. Let’s be consistent, Miss Lindsey. Intimidating, threatening, and actually killing people on behalf of some Cause is pretty much what terrorism is.

I say we all pressure the righties to call the shooting in Charleston an act of terrorism.


Premeditated Stupidity

Republican Party

Why Conservatives Still Won’t Admit That Charleston Was A Racist Crime

The “why” is simple, really. If you’ve been campaigning on racist dogwhistles for umpteen years and are trying to appeal to a voter base of bigots, acknowledging racism is political suicide. Live by the dogwhistle, die by the dogwhistle.


A Tale of Two Churches

Religion, Social Issues

The shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC that left nine dead is at the top of the news this morning, as it should be. The Guardian seems to be doing the best job of updating What We Know So Far. Allegedly the shooter is a 21-year-old white kid named Dylann Storm Roof. We’ll soon learn that he was mentally ill and not a racist (she said, facetiously).

One of those killed, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, was also a South Carolina state senator with a long history of public service. After the shooting death of Walter L. Scott by a white police officer in North Charleston, the Reverent Pinckney had led a rally against gun violence.

No More Mr. Nice Blog has a representative selection of responses from Fox News viewers, in which we learn that the real villains here are Al Sharpton, Al Sharpton, Al Sharpton, Rachel Dolezal, the racist (and anti-Semitic) president and liberal media, legislators who turn churches into gun-free zones, and, of course, gay people.” Well, that goes without saying.

At Salon, Chauncy DeVega wants to know “Where are the white fathers in the white home?” Heh.

I predict we’ll soon learn that young Mr. Roof is a big fan of right-wing media and a regular consumer of right-wing hate speech. This revelation will be followed by shrieks of outrage from the Right, because libruhls are trying to censor them. The South Carolina state legislature will respond by making it legal to open carry firearms in churches, if it isn’t legal already. Then this will all be shoved under the rug.

The other church in the title of this post is the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, which is on the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel. The Church was built on the site said to be where Jesus fed the multitude with five loaves and two fish. It has been severely damaged by arsonists. No persons were seriously injured.

Was this done by deranged Palestinians or Jesus-hating jihadists? Apparently not; those arrested for the crime are yeshiva students, who left a note about false idols being smashed. These alleged arsonists live on the West Bank and are being defended by a right-wing organization. Israeli officials condemned the act. However,

The Catholic Church in Israel told Haaretz that they saw this attack as a continuation of the aggression against holy Christian sites over the last few years, which it said the Israeli government and authorities have failed to deal with accordingly. A report on the matter has been given to the Vatican, the sources said.

So are the good American wingnut Christians going to rise up and condemn Israel for not aggressively dealing with anti-Christian terrorists who are not Muslim? I’m not holding my breath.


Feminisms and Other Feminisms

Women's Issues

Sort of staying with the theme of the last post — I’ve argued for some time that there is no feminist movement any more, but just a lot of different “feminisms,” many of which are at odds with each other. And I haven’t been fully active in any of them for some time, although as you regulars know I am passionate about reproductive rights and equal protection under the law for everybody.

This morning I came across a “radical feminism FAQ” that I found disturbing

Radical feminists are critical of gender itself. We are not gender reformists–we are gender abolitionists. Without the socially constructed gender roles that form the basis of patriarchy, all people would be free to dress, behave, and love others in whatever way they wished, no matter what kind of body they had.

Patriarchy is a caste system which takes humans who are born biologically male or female and turns them into the social classes called men and women. Male people are made into men by socialization into masculinity, which is defined by a psychology based on emotional numbness and a dichotomy of self and other. This is also the psychology required by soldiers, which is why we don’t think you can be a peace activist without being a feminist.

Female socialization in patriarchy is a process of psychologically constraining and breaking girls—otherwise known as “grooming”—to create a class of compliant victims. Femininity is a set of behaviors that are, in essence, ritualized submission.

As I tried to explain to some jerk in the comments in the last post, biological womanhood and cultural womanhood are two very different things that often don’t line up very well. To grow up in the 1950s and 1960s, as I did, was to be conditioned into a kind of cultural bifurcation in which we were locked into rigid gender roles — Friedan’s “feminine mystique” — while at the same time our actual biological functions were to be kept carefully hidden and never talked about.

Yes, we had at least gone beyond the Victorian upper-class ideal of pregnant women confining themselves out of sight once the pregnancy could no longer be kept hidden under clothes. But otherwise our bodies were a mystery even to us, because so much of our experience of ourselves was Not To Be Discussed.

Menstruation was a big one. I was introduced to the subject with a book titled “You’re a Young Lady Now!” that had a picture of a pretty girl in a sweater set and pearls on the cover. There was a lot of filler about dating that managed to not say anything about anything and advice about taking a lot of baths to stay fresh! and clean!, with maybe two pages of actual information about The Monthlies. The subliminal message was that this is a secret among us young ladies that we were supposed to pretend doesn’t actually happen and that we were to manage discretely, preferably by using the product of whatever tampon manufacturer published the booklet.

I’m sure a lot of us as teenagers had the experience of being doubled over with menstrual cramps while sitting in class, but we couldn’t just say that because menstruation was unmentionable in mixed company. So we’d say we had a headache and ask to see the nurse. I don’t know what we would have done if there’d been male nurses back then.

And, of course, while dating we were supposed to package ourselves in a somewhat sexually provocative way while pretending we weren’t really interested. Back in the day it was often assumed we wouldn’t be interested, actually, because young ladies don’t think those things. What we were supposed to do if we were interested was not discussed. But we were supposed to want to get married and have babies, in that order, because we were girls. Just as boys were supposed to want to have sex all the time and were not to blame if they couldn’t control themselves. But the unfortunate young lady who got pregnant out of wedlock was put through unimaginable emotional wringers and basically was screwed for life in several different ways.

Meanwhile, boys were put through their own very negative conditioning. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but the best book I’ve ever read on gender conditioning was written by a man, Sam Keen, and is titled Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man. And he discusses the emotional armoring culture requires of men that cuts them off from large parts of themselves. If you have never read it, I still recommend it highly, even though it was first published in 1992.

But here’s the thing — to say that our cultural and social ideas about gender role are screwed up and hurting all of us is not to say gender makes no difference whatsoever. To ignore the very real physical and emotional needs generated by our different roles in the reproduction process is to just put ourselves into a different set of self-denial boxes.

Self-other dichotomies are tricky things that you can’t get rid of by ignoring actual differences. It’s understood in Zen that the only way to liberate oneself from self-other dichotomies is to realize that the individual “self,” or whatever identity we cling to, is an artificial construct without substantive reality.

But while identity is artificial, experience is real (sorta kinda; this gets us into yogacara, which is hairy stuff). And the experience of life as a woman differs in many ways from the experience of life as a man, and it’s not helpful to anybody to pretend otherwise. We have different sorts of physical abilities, which is why there are sex-separated Olympic sports. Pregnancy and childbirth are significant life events that reverberate in every part of one’s being. Just the potential for pregnancy and childbirth can take up a huge part of a woman psyche even if she chooses to avoid them. And I understand the brains of men and women are organized in somewhat different ways, although I’m not sure we fully appreciate why that’s so or how that affects us.

So even though there is a lot about cultural femininity and masculinity that is artificial and limiting, to say there is no difference at all also is artificial and limiting. The ideal, seems to me, is to respect and appreciate real differences while letting go of culturally conditioned ones.

Getting back to feminism — it was Sigmund Freud who said “anatomy is destiny,” and Freud was far from being a feminist. This morphed into “biology is destiny,” and feminists have long said that biology is not destiny, particularly when thinking in terms of careers. But anatomy does shape experience, and it’s our experience of life that matters. Not role playing; not identity. Those things are artificial. Experience is not artificial, and it has a lot to do with how we understand ourselves.

Consider race. Racial differences are social constructs that have no physiological reality. But because whites and non-whites in our culture have radically different life experiences as a result of culture, sometimes we might as well be living in different worlds. The stubborn refusal of many whites to understand and appreciate this reality of experience perpetuates our divisions. Even more so, to deny that men and women have different experiences of life because of our anatomies is not going to help any of us.

Back in the day patriarchy defined everything about women as inferior, and this included our roles as child-bearers and nurturers. I remember an early issue of Ms. magazine, ca. early 1970s, that featured a cover photo of a young man cuddling a baby. The idea that fathers should play a role in the care of their own children was radically crazy at the time, and conservatives went ballistic about it. Now, weirdly, conservatives and misogynists have embraced fatherhood (or, in the case of misogynists, an idea of fatherhood) and have gotten the notion that feminists are against fatherhood, which certainly was never true. It was 1970s-era feminists who made joint custody the norm instead of some weird newfangled thing, for example.

I’m not sure if young people today appreciate that for a long time the Patriarchy took childbirth away from us. Not that men could give birth, of course. But in the 19th century the male medical establishment got in its collective head that childbirth was too important to be left to women and their female midwives. It was to be brought into hospitals where men with medical training could manage it. Never mind that maternal death rates soared in those hospitals, where puerperal fever was rampant and spread from one woman to another by the doctors themselves.

(Suggested reading: Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution by Adrienne Rich [1976] , one of the most gut-wrenching books I ever read, details how the war between patriarchy and maternity go back to ancient times.)

General anesthesia, while sometimes merciful, robbed a few generations of women of the experience of childbirth and put infants at risk. By the 1950s physicians had settled on a “safer” drug that didn’t block the pain but rendered women incapable of taking part in or remembering childbirth. As Sylvia Plath wryly noted in The Bell Jar, “it sounded just like the sort of drug a man would invent.”

The early natural childbirth movement was embraced by many women, but it was quickly joined by something called the Bradley Method, or “Husband-coached” childbirth, which effectively put the husband in charge of his wife’s labor. Soon some women felt they were being pressured by their husbands and doctors to avoid anesthesia when they really wanted it. Betty Friedan took a jaundiced view of natural childbirth in The Feminine Mystique, probably for that reason. (I want to add that I had both of my babies “naturally” and wouldn’t have missed that experience for the world. But some women have a harder time of it.)

(See also “The Masculinization Project of Hospital Birth Practices and Hollywood Comedies” by Shira Segal, which reviews the whole father’s part in childbirth as a culture thing. Interesting stuff.)

But I digress. The point is that women have had to fight even to take childbirth itself back from the Patriarchy. And in the larger scheme of things, it’s been a fight to have the different reproductive roles of men and women to be honored and respected, not judged inferior or superior. The experiences of pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood — when freely chosen — are empowering, not demeaning.

And parenting should not be ghettoized into some female thing that goes on out of sight of the Mighty Male Breadwinners, which is what had happened to it by early in the 20th century. Rather, parenting ought to be respected by our culture, and it should not be thought demeaning to men to fully engage in taking care of children.

And so today, NBA star Stephen Curry can take his adorable little daughter to press conferences and not be thought less of a man. We’re making progress. Fifty years ago if an athlete had done that it would have been the beginning of the end of his career, I suspect.

Going back to the beginning of this very long post, it seems utterly unhelpful to me to deny that there are real gender differences that ought to be respected and honored. And going back to the last post, this is why I take issue with trans women who want to define “womanhood” purely as a cultural role unrelated to reproduction. This actually is taking us in the opposite direction of feminism as I have always understood feminism.

And for those who want to define uterus-owners as “females” instead of “women,” I’m sure I’m not the only one who has noticed that “female” as a noun is the preferred term used by genuine misogynists when referring to women. Many misogynists avoid using the word “woman.” It’s kind of a tell of a woman-hater if he uses “females” as a noun when most people would say “women.” In some contexts “female,” especially as a noun, has long been a kind of gender equivalent to “Negro.” That’s not true in all contexts, of course.

But “womanhood” to me is the centered and intimate experience of being that part of the species that gives birth (although one doesn’t have to give birth to be a woman), with all the messiness that goes with it, and I’m not conceding the word. I have no problem with trans women taking on a cultural identity as women, but I am opposed to defining “womanhood” as being purely social and cultural. As I said, this is a fight engaged in for too long to be abandoned now.


Rachel Dolezal, Caitlyn Jenner, and Identity

Social Issues, Women's Issues

Rachel Dolezal was born a white woman but has been passing for black for some time, apparently by darkening her skin and getting aggressive perms. She became president of the Spokane NAACP and a spokesperson for the African American community in Spokane, which I understand is small. Now a lot of people are really pissed at Dolezal for passing herself off as something she wasn’t.

Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce, has been surgically made over so that Jenner can live as a woman instead of a man. Many of us have been defending her. I’m of the “it doesn’t pick my pocket or break my leg” school of thought on this, frankly. If being a woman makes Jenner happy, I don’t have a problem with the gender reassignment.

So is this inconsistent? Not exactly. I wouldn’t choose Jenner to represent women’s interests or to become head of NOW. The life experiences of trans women are not the life experiences of biological women. Trans women have never had to deal with menstrual cramps or leaks. Pregnancy, childbirth, abortions, miscarriages — or avoiding those things — are huge parts of a biological woman’s life but are not on the transgendered’s radar. Have they ever had to find a place to nurse a hungry baby away from home? How about the joys of menopause? And then there’s the fact that someone who has lived into adulthood as a man is unlikely to have lived with the constant putdowns and sleights, socially and professionally, that all women experience. They may experience those things after the reassignment, but they didn’t have to grow up with them and have to struggle to not let it define them.

A few days ago in the New York Times, Elinor Burkett wrote an op ed arguing that transgendered women are threatening to derail progress for biological women. I was unaware of some of the stuff that has been going on —

…it’s growing harder to avoid asking pointed questions about the frequent attacks by some trans leaders on women’s right to define ourselves, our discourse and our bodies. After all, the trans movement isn’t simply echoing African-Americans, Chicanos, gays or women by demanding an end to the violence and discrimination, and to be treated with a full measure of respect. It’s demanding that women reconceptualize ourselves.

In January 2014, the actress Martha Plimpton, an abortion-rights advocate, sent out a tweet about a benefit for Texas abortion funding called “A Night of a Thousand Vaginas.” Suddenly, she was swamped by criticism for using the word “vagina.” “Given the constant genital policing, you can’t expect trans folks to feel included by an event title focused on a policed, binary genital,” responded @DrJaneChi.

WHEN Ms. Plimpton explained that she would continue to say “vagina” — and why shouldn’t she, given that without a vagina, there is no pregnancy or abortion? — her feed overflowed anew with indignation, Michelle Goldberg reported in The Nation. “So you’re really committed to doubling down on using a term that you’ve been told many times is exclusionary & harmful?” asked one blogger. Ms. Plimpton became, to use the new trans insult, a terf, which stands for “trans exclusionary radical feminist.”

In January, Project: Theatre at Mount Holyoke College, a self-described liberal arts college for women, canceled a performance of Eve Ensler’s iconic feminist play “The Vagina Monologues” because it offered an “extremely narrow perspective on what it means to be a woman,” explained Erin Murphy, the student group’s chairwoman.

Let me get this right: The word “vagina” is exclusionary and offers an extremely narrow perspective on womanhood, so the 3.5 billion of us who have vaginas, along with the trans people who want them, should describe ours with the politically correct terminology trans activists are pushing on us: “front hole” or “internal genitalia”?

Even the word “woman” has come under assault by some of the very people who claim the right to be considered women. The hashtags #StandWithTexasWomen, popularized after Wendy Davis, then a state senator, attempted to filibuster the Texas Legislature to prevent passage of a draconian anti-abortion law, and #WeTrustWomen, are also under attack since they, too, are exclusionary.

“Abortion rights and reproductive justice is not a women’s issue,” wrote Emmett Stoffer, one of many self-described transgender persons to blog on the topic. It is “a uterus owner’s issue.” Mr. Stoffer was referring to the possibility that a woman who is taking hormones or undergoing surgery to become a man, or who does not identify as a woman, can still have a uterus, become pregnant and need an abortion.

Let me repeat that last one –

“Abortion rights and reproductive justice is not a women’s issue,” wrote Emmett Stoffer, one of many self-described transgender persons to blog on the topic. It is “a uterus owner’s issue.”

You see the problem. Seems to me some of the trans ladies may have lost their penises but not their sense of privilege. Now they’re mansplaining to us what womanhood is.

I also agree with Burkett that a lot of trans women seem to have embraced some aspects of the feminine mystique that Betty Friedan raised hell about back in 1964. No, dears, let’s not go backward now.

So, while I have no problem with people choosing to live with a different gender identity than they one they were born with, it has to be said that they are not fully biological women and they have not had the life experiences of fully biological women. Therefore, they don’t get to define womanhood or decide what issues are important to biological women. They need, in short, to STFU about what’s important to women or what words women are allowed to use to discuss their own bodies. End of discussion. If that makes me a “terf,” bite me.

Burkett also said,

Imagine the reaction if a young white man suddenly declared that he was trapped in the wrong body and, after using chemicals to change his skin pigmentation and crocheting his hair into twists, expected to be embraced by the black community.

And that brings us back to Dolezal. I’d be curious to know if she could have gotten away with the charade in a less white part of the country; Mississippi, say, instead of Spokane. She wouldn’t have had the same life experiences as someone born black, and genuinely intimate experience is hard to fake.

Without knowing Dolezal’s motivations or how her head is wired it’s hard to know what was going on, but it seems to me that if her interest in African-American well-being were genuine she would have respected the African-American experience enough to not try to fake being one in order to take leadership roles. That’s what strikes me as odd. I could see that someone white might fall in love with black culture and come to admire the unique beauty of African American women and want to copy that, but Dolezal went far beyond that.

The whole identity issue is a tricky thing. From a Buddhist perspective, things like race and gender are just temporary conditions, empty of self-nature. They are not who we are. However, they do have a big impact on how we live our lives, so we can’t very well ignore them.

Wanting to be something other than what one is comes under the heading of bhava tanha, “craving to be” or “craving to become.” It’s a particularly nasty sort of craving that has a lot to do with why people get stuck in samsara. And note that the craving itself is the problem; one can desire to be something good, like a nun or a heart surgeon, and it’s still a problem, especially if it’s more about enhancing one’s status than living on behalf of others. As soon as we think in terms of what we want to be, and not just what we hope to do, we’re in trouble.

So this whole issue of changing gender or race or anything else about oneself has a great many facets — biological, cultural, social, and spiritual — that we’re not really discussing, and which people need to consider and work out for themselves. In short, it’s complicated.


Stuff to Read

blogging, Republican Party

The GOP is trying to take itself back from the Koch Brothers.

Interviews with more than three dozen people, including top decision-makers in both camps, have revealed that the Kochs’ i360 platform for managing voter contacts — which is viewed by many as a superior, easier-to-use interface than what’s on offer from the RNC — is becoming increasingly popular among Republican campaigns.

The RNC is now openly arguing, however, that the Kochs’ political operation is trying to control the Republican Party’s master voter file, and to gain influence over — some even say control of — the GOP.

“I think it’s very dangerous and wrong to allow a group of very strong, well-financed individuals who have no accountability to anyone to have control over who gets access to the data when, why and how,” said Katie Walsh, the RNC’s chief of staff. …

The fight between the RNC’s chairman and the political operatives affiliated with Charles and David Koch over who controls the rich treasury of data on likely Republican voters has raised fundamental questions about what role the party’s central committee — even under the best management — can hope to play in the age of super-PACs. And it raises an even more fundamental question of how you define a political party.

The Kochs haven’t just purchased some politicians; they are buying the entire party.

But I can’t say I’m all that happy about the Democrats, either. We’re being told the candidate will be Hillary Clinton, who to me is a big meh. Certainly I will vote for her if she’s the nominee, because the alternative will be worse. She’s good on some domestic issues, especially women’s issues. But the hearts of the Dem base are with people like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, not Hillary Clinton, and conventional wisdom says Sanders can’t be elected, and Warren isn’t running.

See also Bernie Sanders masterfully trolls the GOP: 2016 hopeful unveils a real “family values” agenda .

To be reminded of what Republicans would do to America if they had unchecked power, see Kansas Reduced to Rubble.

Mostly for fun, and also to generate more traffic, I put together a slide show of gorgeous photographs of Buddhist festivals. Some of them may surprise you.

Let’s talk about mysterious things that never come to light. UFOs. Bigfoot. The Loch Ness Monster.

The Republican Health Care Plan.

Having failed for years to generate a health care plan, now the Republicans are saying they have one but that it’s a secret. Let me guess — they’re planning to bomb Cambodia?

Update: One more — How Scott Walker is killing the University of Wisconsin at Madison.


Sir Christopher Lee, 1922-2015

entertainment and popular culture

He’ll be back.


The Gulag Is Upon Us


So a 71-year-old law-abiding citizen is not allowed to hand-deliver letters about campaign finance reform to members of the House. I can understand requiring the letters to go through some kind of security screening –anthrax, you know — but to not allow him to deliver the letters at all seems, um, un-American.

It hasn’t been that long since a mob of rowdy teabaggers got into the Longworth House Office Building and heckled Democratic congresspersons, in particularly black Democratic congresspersons, and I don’t know that any were so much as briefly detained. Funny how that works.

See also this article by Joan Shipps at Raw Story.

Late Thursday night, the House of Representatives voted in favor of “H.J.Res. 43: Disapproving the action of the District of Columbia Council in approving the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014.” If enacted, the legislation would make using employer-based health insurance for in vitro fertilization or birth control pills a fireable offense in Washington, D.C.

That’s bad enough, but in some ways this part is more disturbing:

Thursday’s House floor debate kicked off after 9:00 PM. Before I entered the doors to the House Gallery, I complied with a police request to forfeit all my electronic devices. I inquired if I could get a press pass so I could take pictures. After a few radio calls, officials on the scene told me I could not have a press pass. So I relinquished my phone and proceeded to go in the Gallery anyway.

Before going through my second metal detector since entering the building, a police officer gave my purse a thorough examination. I had already put my purse through an x-ray machine.

When I entered the Gallery, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) was imploring her Republican colleagues not to use the federal authority vested in them by people from other states to overturn local laws in Washington, D.C.

I sat down near D.C. voting rights activists who were attending the hearing and began to take notes on a steno pad. A congressional staffer came over and informed me I was not allowed to take notes.

 Not allowed to take notes? Maybe C-Span was there, I don’t know. But this is just twisted. Whose House is it, anyway?


Republicans Versus Republicanism

Republican Party

A republican government is supposed to be one in which “power resides in elected individuals representing the citizen body and government leaders exercise power according to the rule of law,” according to Wikipedia. This appears to be a concept unfamiliar to today’s Republicans.

For example — I hadn’t heard Grover Norquist had been elected to anything by anybody. But it appears he holds supreme power in the state of Louisiana.

Republican state lawmakers in Louisiana and anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist are in a war of words over the state’s terrible budget options, with Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), a 2016 White House contender, stuck in the middle.

The state faces an enormous $1.6 billion budget shortfall, a reality Jindal blames on falling oil revenues. However, he is one of a number of GOP governors, many of them considering presidential runs, who have found themselves with budget crises due to their unwillingness to raise tax revenue. Jindal’s anti-tax orthodoxy has limited legislators’ options for balancing the state’s budget and means the state is facing the prospect of drastic cuts in key areas like higher education.

For months now legislators have accused Jindal of kowtowing to Norquist’s “no tax pledge,” which stipulates that taxes cannot be raised unless they’re offset by spending cuts elsewhere. And this weekend they’d had enough. A group of self-described “conservative” Republican state representatives took their complaints to Norquist himself, asking him to give them some wiggle room on raising taxes and to shoot down some Jindal-backed legislation that they say would set a “dangerous precedent” in how government could mask revenue hikes.

Norquist, president of the Americans for Tax Reform, shot back Monday in a letter of his own, in which he okayed the proposal in question and called legislators’ inability to find cuts elsewhere “disconcerting.”

I assume no one in Louisiana pays attention to the state government, since if any of them did they’d be storming the state house with torches and pitchforks.

But that’s not the worst thing I’ve heard this week. Apparently Sam Brownback wants dictatorial powers in Kansas.

On Thursday, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill that threatens the entire state’s judiciary with destruction if it rules against a law he favors. Brownback has spent much of his tenure attempting to curb the state supreme court and consolidate power in the executive branch. Thursday’s startling maneuver suggests the deeply conservative governor has no compunction about simply obliterating separation of powers when another branch of government gets in his way.

That rule of law thing is so inconvenient sometimes

The Kansas trouble started in 2014, when the state supreme court ruled that the disparity between school funding in rich and poor districts violated the state constitution. The justices ordered the legislature to fix the problem. Soon after, the legislature passed an administrative law that stripped the supreme court of its authority to appoint local chief judges and set district court budgets.

… Just in case the court didn’t get the message, Brownback and the legislature have also threatened the justices with blatantly political reforms, like subjecting them to recall elections, splitting the court in two, lowering the retirement age, and introducing partisan elections. …

… Now the court has an opportunity to strike down the administrative law, which probably violates the state constitution. And that’s where Brownback’s insane new law comes in. The law declares that if the supreme court strikes down the administrative law, the entire state judiciary will lose its funding. Brownback and the legislature are essentially bullying the judiciary: Uphold our law or cease to exist.

On the bright side, Rushbo’s reign of error on the radio appears to be coming to an end.


The Ultimate Anti-Obamacare GOP Tweet

Health Care, Republican Party

It’s impressive:

Kinda takes your breath away, huh?

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